Water industry launches world’s first sector-wide plan to deliver net zero carbon emissions by 2030

Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Major UK water and sewerage providers, including Yorkshire Water, Anglian Water and United Utilities, have unveiled a plan to deliver a net zero water supply for customers by 2030 in the world’s first sector-wide commitment of its kind.

The Net Zero 2030 Routemap sets out the industry’s vision for how water companies, which together produce almost a third of UK industrial and waste process emissions, will play their part in tackling climate change by reaching net zero two decades ahead of the UK Government target of 2050.

By joining forces in this way, the sector expects to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 10 million tonnes.

Christine McGourty, Water UK Chief Executive commented on the announcement: “This Routemap is a crucial step forward in setting out the industry’s vision for tackling climate change as we work towards a green and resilient recovery for society, the economy and the environment.

“We don’t have all the answers, and we can’t do it alone but with the support of government, regulators and the supply chain, we believe we can deliver a net zero water supply for customers that also helps build the green skills and solutions needed to protect the environment for generations to come.”

The Routemap offers a 10-point plan for decarbonisation including recommendations for government and regulators that will help protect customer bills and keep investment costs down while supporting the development of green skills and nature-based solutions as part of the economic recovery.

The Net Zero 2030 Routemap identifies a variety of technologies and initiatives that will be needed including:

  • The production of biomethane from sewage waste, allowing green gas to be injected into the grid to heat up to 150,000 homes and/or for use as an alternative fuel for transport
  • The development of up to 3GW of new solar and wind generation capacity – enough power to meet 80% of the sector’s electricity demands
  • The restoration of 20,000 hectares of owned peatland and grassland, and planting of 11 million trees
  • The electrification of 100% of passenger vehicles and transition of 80% of commercial vehicles (LGVs and HGVs) to alternative fuels.

Heidi Mottram, Chief Executive of Northumbrian Water, commented: “There is no greater threat to our environment right now than climate change and reducing carbon emissions is a key battleground if we are to overcome that challenge.

“We are standing up to take on this challenge head on, as the first sector in the world to have a detailed plan to get to net zero.

“It is also a plan that makes it clear that improving our natural environment also has real and long-term benefits in reducing carbon usage – making treatment easier, less reliant on high-carbon use processes and with less by-products.

“Our Net Zero Routemap is a recognition that the challenges of innovating to tackle climate change and deliver environmental improvement are inextricably linked – as is our determination to make a real impact.”

The development of the Routemap builds on the progress made by the sector in recent years, having almost halved operational emissions since 2011 through a combination of energy efficiency measures, renewable energy generation, and the production of biomethane from sewage treatment processes.

Liz Barber, Chief Executive of Yorkshire Water, added: “Climate change has a profound impact on public water supplies and the way in which we manage the impact of waste on the environment.

“In Yorkshire over the last few years, extreme weather events have cost over £200 million, from managing flooding through to prolonged periods of dry weather.

“It is only right therefore that water companies should be at the forefront of efforts to reach net zero but we need support from government and regulators to allow us to invest at the levels which will be necessary.”